Sunday, August 10, 2014

Official Deeds to Jue Joe's Main Property in China

In a previous post we shared some deeds that my great grandmother Leong Shee brought with her from China in 1918 which my late Auntie Joan had given to my son Robert.  My Auntie Estelle was kind enough to share an additional two deeds that were also brought by Leong Shee from China. The writing in these deeds has never before been translated by our family. Nick, my nephew, was kind enough to have his business associate Franc in China translate these deeds and my Auntie Soo Yin was able to provide some context and commentary.  These documents are a doorway to better understanding our family's history in China.
Here are the two  documents ( click to enlarge and inspect )  :

Here is Franc's translation and some of his commentary of the events in China at the time the documents were created. (Note: In this contract Zhao Xinyan is the seller. Zhao Weiyue  is Jue Joe's "Ming" name used in official documents . More on names below.)

"File 1
Because of lack of food,the seller Zhao Xinyuan discussed with his family members and decide to sell his father's farmland,the farmland was named "old orchard garden",the area is 9 fen(equals 600 square meters), selling price is 45 tael(silver currency).Zhao Xinyuan's relatives do not want to buy the farmland,middleman Zhao Hongqiu introduced buyer Zhao Weiyue to him. Zhao Xingyuan and Zhao Weiyue discussed and agreed with the price 45 tael,they signed the contract, Zhao Weiyue paid full money that day, and Zhao Xingyuan gave Zhao Weiyue the farmland the same day. Zhao Xingyuan promise the farm land was his father's property, Zhao Xingyuan is responsible for this. Seller Zhao Xingyuan and buyer Zhao Weiyue signed the contract to prove the deal.

The finger printing is Zhao Xingyuan's grandma Chen's, to prove they received Zhao Weiyue's money. Date is Lunar January the 25th,1911.

File 2
It is the same as File 1, but it is a formal one with government stamp.

The taxable amount on the formal contract is 62.5 tael, and Zhao Weiyue paid 3.75 tael to the new government as tax. Date on File 2 is 1913.

The below information is not on the documents, I just gave you the information for your reference:
The Qing Dynasty demised in February 1912, and the Republic of China established in 1912 after The Revolution Of 1911.
I guess the contract need official approval from the new government, to approve the owner is Zhao Weiyue, so file 2 was needed."

Let's now discuss some family context to understand these deeds.  Jue Joe returned to China in 1902 and in an arranged marriage married Leong Shee. He purchased a house and in that house his first son San You was born. Later he purchased farm land and built a large two story house to which the family moved and in which my grandfather San Tong was born.

 Upon returning to China from America Jue Joe had turned over his farming business to his brother Jue Shee who remained in America. Their arrangement was that Jue Shee would send regular proceeds from the profits of the business back to Jue Joe in China.  In 1906 , however, having discovered that his brother unbeknownst to him had sold the farming business and left to parts unknown  with the proceeds , Jue Joe has decided to return by himself to the United States to remake his fortune. 

 Leong Shee never hears from Jue Joe again for nine long years and it is twelve years before she is able to reunite with him in America with her boys. She has heard of the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco and presumes that Jue Joe may have died. She must raise her two sons herself, support her family and maintain title to Jue Joe's property in China. In 1911, with dramatic changes sweeping through China , Leong Shee realizes that she needs to draw up a new contract retelling an older contract between Jue Joe and the seller to insure that title is clear. Land ownership laws  during the Qing dynasty strongly favored retention of family lands along patriarchial lines and if land was sold by a family member to a non family member, the owner could reserve the "right of redemption" and buy back the property at will at the original asking price !

I think  that Leong Shee with all the turmoil happening in the country was trying to insure her property rights  and had this document drawn up  so that no  family members of the original seller could contest her right to remain on the property or buy the land out from under her .. by having the head of the family " grandma chen" affix her fingerprint in 1911 to a retelling of the original contract  done previously she  was insuring her right to title in perpetuity into the future... I bet the original contract is in the other papers that the family has . After the Chinese revolution in 1911 and the installation of the new Republic of China , she was careful to have the deed officialy recognized and stamped by the new government and pays tax.   I am very impressed with Leong Shee , she was one hell of a strong woman , in all respects.

A note on the name Zhao Weiyue . This is the english version of the mandarin pronunciation of Jue Joe's "Ming" or ceremonial name that is used on official documents.  In Cantonese the same characters are pronounced Jue Wei Ngok. This is also the Chinese name of my first born son Robert. My grandfather San Tong chose the Chinese name Wei Ngok (Wei Yue) for his first great grandson ,my son Robert, which was also the "Ming" name of his father.  Wei has the connotation of "great and powerful" and " yue" refers to  "a  mountain peak". The character "Yue" is also the surname of a famous general of the Southern Song Dynasty Yue Fei. , and another meaning of this name could be to refer to that general  ie " the Great and powerful Yue " .

Each person had a 名 ming² [ming²], or official name. Apparently a person had only one ming at a time, but he or she probably had several ming throughout his or her lifetime. A person might even have a posthumous ming. Ming are composed of one or two syllables. Disyllabic ming could constitute a single word or a two word phrase. In the case of phrases, one word might modify the other (for example, names meaning Flying Swallow or Gold Lotus), one word might reinforce or duplicate the other (for example, Hsiao³ Hsiao³ [Xiao³ Xiao³] where the character translates as small, and Shu4 Cheng¹ [Shu4 Zheng¹] where both characters translate as virtuous, pure), or the two words might express two separate characteristics (for example, a name meaning Graceful and Beautiful). In a few cases, a person had a two-word ming that, in the West, seems like a nickname or sobriquet (for example, the ming Hsiao³ Wan² [Xiao³ Wan²], meaning Young Wan, apparently given because the bearer’s older sister’s ming was Wan² Wan² [Wan² Wan²]). As previously described, a ming is an official name. It typically would be used on official documents and in official proclamations. However, in many periods of Chinese history, it was impolite to use a noble or important person’s ming when speaking to him or her.[2,3] At other times, the acceptability of using a person’s ming depended on the relative status of the speaker and the person to whom he or she was speaking. For example, in such eras it was usually acceptable for a father to use his son's ming, a husband to use his wife's ming, or an employer to use an employee's ming; but the reverse would not be acceptable. However, a traditional difference in status might not be sufficient. For example, although his role as husband gave him more status than his wife, the emperor's son-in-law probably would not use his wife's ming when speaking to her where others could hear."

Here is some additional commentary on these deeds by my Auntie Soo-Yin:

 "Hi Family,
Nick:  Thank you for having Franc translate Auntie Estelle's 2-part deed.  This translation is a treasure for our family!!!  I am sure that this deed refers to Jue Joe's 2nd home, which Auntie Pingy and I visited in 1987.  Moreover, the 600 meters of land converts to 6458.35 square feet, and this is the approximate size of the family compound that we saw in 1987 and that Auntie Pingy had video-taped.  The transitional period between the collapse of the Ching Dynasty and the beginning of the Republic/Nationalist era is a fascinating one, as exemplified by Leong Shee's frantic efforts to ensure that title to Jue Joe's Chinese land remained in the family. 
JR:  I agree with you that this deed, dated January 25, 1911, is a retelling of Jue Joe's earlier contract of sale.  Franc's English translation says, "...Zhao Weiyue paid full money that day.  And Zhao Xingyuan gave the farmland the same day...."  To me the use of "that day" refers to an earlier time period, as opposed to the use of "this day."  Also, in clearing title during China's chaotic political situation, Leong Shee would know that she needed to remove "right of redemption" from the seller and his family, and would know that she needed to have the most senior member, the Grandma, affix her consent to it and to stand as witness to the conditions of the original sales agreement.  Leong Shee, along with so many other families in China, feared the loss of their lands in the political and economic turmoil of the times.  She was wise to reconfirm legal title with the new Republic. 
Interesting that the 2nd part of the deed with the new government's red stamp, dated 1913, indicates a bit of tax gouging by the new Republic.  The tax was raised to "...62.5 taels (of silver)...."  This was a lot of money!!!  But Leong Shee negotiated to pay 3.75 taels of silver.  She was a skilled businesswoman.   
In fact, Ah Gung always said that Leong Shee "...was an impressive businesswoman in China...."  He told us that his mother had added 32 acres to Jue Joe's original land, and in 1987, Auntie Pingy and I saw for ourselves the 32 acres that Leong Shee had added.  The family's land in China is quite large. 
Leong Shee was the only girl in her family, and she was the youngest among 5 older brothers.  Her father died young from diabetes.  After Jue Joe left for America, in 1906, the brothers taught Leong Shee how to run the farm and how to conduct business transactions.  Ah Gung said that he remembered his maternal grandmother taking care of his brother Sam and himself, while his uncles and Leong Shee went out to the fields to work.  In short time, Leong Shee became very proficient on her own.  She acquired so much land that she rented portions to share-croppers who paid her in rice yields, instead of cash.  Ah Gung remembered jumping into the mounds of rice in a shed--almost floor to ceiling--and nearly being buried alive!  At market Leong Shee resold this rice at a high price because the quality was very good.  She was a skilled negotiator!  The family in China never starved because Leong Shee was the breadwinner in absence of Jue Joe.   
Having been such a successful businesswoman in China, you can imagine the shock that Leong Shee must have felt in arriving on the Chatsworth territory and in being relegated to KP duty cooking and scrubbing for 20 cowhands, the rain pelting her cheeks.  Leong Shee couldn't speak English.  She felt isolated.  And she cried for the first 2 years begging Jue Joe to send her back to China.  Frontier life was adventurous for rugged men with big dreams, but it didn't give much comfort or compassion to pioneer women. 
I'm sure you will find more deeds in Robert's stash.  There should be deeds to land that Leong Shee purchased on her own, too, as part of her 32-acre additions.  Ah Gung said that she brought lots of deeds with her to America.  I am sure that the 310 taels of silver that Weiyue paid for a home in 1903 is the house that Sam was born in.  And the gravesite purchased in 1902 was for the reburial of Jue Joe's father, Lerng Kao. 
Robert's name:  An adult male can have several different names besides a married name, as indicated in JR's article.  It depends a lot on the relationship between one person speaking to another.  In this case, I think Weiyue is probably one of Jue Joe's names.  Remember that he built his own family shrine in Canton City (today's Guangzhou) and named it "Wei Kao Ngok Hong."  It was in honor of his father and in honor of all the generations to come.  It was a great honor that the elders in Sum Gong Village had bestowed on Jue Joe:  They allowed him to start his own family shrine that records his lineage and all property transactions.  Most everyone was recorded in the clan lineage, unless you distinguished yourself by becoming very successful.  Leong Shee seems to have used "Weiyue" in her business transactions because a Chinese woman uses her husband's name in formal transactions, not her own name.  So Ah Gung may have named Robert "Wei Ngok" (Weiyue) to celebrate the powerful continuity of generations...his great grandson! "

Here are some pictures of our family.

My great grandmother Leong Shee in her later years when I knew her . 

 I  am happy to have known her growing up. She was to me always the loving kindly great grandmother. I am very happy to learn of her early life when she was a fierce "woman warrior " ensuring the survival of her family and her two sons all on her own in a time of great upheaval.

Here is a picture of my late grandfather San Tong, my late father Jack Sr. , and my son Robert.

  " So Ah Gung may have named Robert "Wei Ngok"(Weiyue) to celebrate the powerful continuity of generations...his great grandson! -Auntie Soo Yin "

And here is my previous post about the trip that Auntie Soo-Yin and Auntie Pingy made back to the old homestead in China including video of the house that was built on the property referred to the deeds. 

1 comment:

  1. Warrior Woman: Pirates entered Sum Gong Village (Sanjiang) every December and January. Their presence caused great fear in mothers who knew that children were kidnapped by these pirates and held for ransom. But Leong Shee summed up her courage: Each night she walked her two sons, San Tong and San You, into a far corner of Jue Joe’s fields. There, she hid each boy in a separate stack of rice straw for the night. She told each son not to cry or to stir, and then she returned to Jue Joe’s main house to spend the night alone. When dawn broke across the horizon, Leong Shee hurried into the fields to fetch her two sons, and returning to the main house, they would all share a hearty breakfast of “jook,” meaning rice porridge. My father San Tong always told this story of his boyhood to my siblings and I. He added that Leong Shee was kind to the pirates by offering gifts of food to them when they came to the Village. The pirates thought kindly of her, too, and never caused her harm. Auntie Soo-Yin.